Menu

Blog

Incubator Spotlight: Zoetic Motion

Zoetic Motion is a startup focusing on providing mobility support to people in physical therapy. Using artificial intelligence (AI) powered assistance, they are building a platform that allows patients to guide themselves through home exercises. The platform provides real-time feedback to patients by detecting and correcting their form during movements.

Zoetic Motion is making the recovery process more accessible and convenient, ultimately creating a better experience for patients, said Zoetic Motion founder and CEO Zeeshan Khan.

Khan thought of the idea for the startup while taking an Interdisciplinary Senior Design Project I Course (ENGR 463) at Cal Poly. Through the class, Khan partnered with other Cal Poly students to create Muscle Ninja, an attachable sensor that informs users of muscle activation during exercise.

Khan and his team brought the idea to the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship’s (CIE) Summer Accelerator program in 2021. 

The Summer Accelerator is a three-month program that provides hands-on mentorship and resources needed to build a business. To help grow startups, Accelerator participants gain access to $10,000 in seed funding. Muscle Ninja, now known as Zoetic Motion, was one of the nine startups accepted into the program in 2021. 

Through the Summer Accelerator, Zoetic Motion pivoted from a wearable hardware prototype to a software solution. Khan said the Summer Accelerator helped organize his team’s thoughts, explore more ideas, and de-risk their business. 

After completing the Summer Accelerator, Zoetic Motion joined the CIE Incubator and has been working to build out Zoetic Motion’s mission since then. 

“Since joining the Incubator program, I don’t think I would have had access to the same resources that I did,” Khan said. 

The Incubator allowed Khan to connect with people genuinely interested in his product and with real experience in the entrepreneurship world, he said. 

“It is a great, safe environment where there is someone there to check on your work, check on your progress, and help you stay accountable for the milestones that you set,” Khan explained. 

The Incubator has connected Zoetic Motion with various fundraising opportunities, including AngelCon, an annual pitch competition hosted by the Cal Poly CIE Small Business Development Center (SBDC) where six tech-driven startups compete to win more than $100,000 in equity-backed funding.

After leveraging resources from the Incubator, Khan said he felt more prepared to pitch in front of investors at the upcoming AngelCon event. 

Khan said he is excited to partner with various physical therapy clinics and clinicians. Zoetic Motion now has a business model that allows them to earn income through subscriptions while providing revenue back to the clinics. Khan said Zoetic Motion is now in the hands of users and is steadily gaining more traction.

Their team is giving back to their patients and clinics by making therapy more accessible and providing physical therapists with valuable insights into recovery outcomes.

In addition to providing Zoetic Motion a great setting to fail and receive feedback, the Incubator also allowed Khan to learn about his business and ultimately grow from it. 

“If you want to test yourself out or give yourself a challenge, entrepreneurship is the way to go, especially in the Incubator program,” he said. 

 

Comments are off for this post

Turning waste into sustainable solutions: Cal Poly seniors repurpose food scraps into protein-rich chicken feed

As material engineering senior William Burns was passing time watching Youtube videos, he stumbled across one in particular that caught his attention. Burns watched as the man in the video threw his kitchen scraps into a bucket, and out crawled protein-rich bugs that he used to feed his chickens.  

“I thought that it was the coolest idea – waste in and food out,” Burns said. “How can I make this into something larger?”

About one third of all food is thrown away, where it rots in landfills and produces methane which is very harmful to the environment, according to Burns. 

The YouTube video he watched inspired him to solve that problem. 

That is how his startup ENTEIN came to life. ENTEIN is utilizing food waste to grow insects as an affordable animal feed protein supplement. 

At ENTEIN, Burns and his co-founder Cameron Yartz, a mechanical engineering senior, are repurposing wasted food through insects. Over 15 days, larvae eat the wasted food. Then, Burns and Yartz harvest the larvae and turn them into highly nutritious and protein-rich animal feed, they explained. 

Burns met Yartz through their Introduction to Entrepreneurship (BUS 310) class and Customer Development (BUS 313) class. Although separate classes, their courses were conducted together. Over the course, they developed ENTEIN. 

Burns and Yartz are both passionate about keeping the environment healthy and sustainable. 

“Environmental damage is a problem that everyone will have to deal with at some point,” Yartz said. “It is not going to be one solution that solves this problem once and for all for everybody. It’s about making environmental choices in every area.” 

Burns grew up in Northern Oregon where there has been a lot of clear-cutting, deforestation and pollution in the waterways, he said. 

“I think moving forward, for our country and the world, we need to focus on sustainability or there won’t be anything left for our future generations,” Burns said. 

The co-founders want to become more environmentally friendly by producing a product that reduces the amount of waste stream in landfills which harms the environment. 

Feeling confident in ENTEIN, Burns pitched their idea at the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship’s (CIE) Innovation Quest (iQ)

iQ is a competition that helps entrepreneurs develop their ideas into scalable companies by providing them with the necessary resources and funding. 

ENTEIN competed and won the Environmental Impact Award, receiving $5,000 in prize money. The Environmental Impact Award is awarded to the team whose innovation focuses on environmentalism and sustainability. 

Winning the environmental award validated the fact that their product is truly helpful for the environment, Burns explained. 

iQ propelled Burns and Yartz to apply for the CIE Summer Accelerator, a 13-week program that provides entrepreneurs with $10,000 in funding, mentorship and other resources to launch a company. 

ENTEIN was one of the eight teams accepted into the program. 

As a mechanical engineering major, Yartz said he felt intimidated to join the Summer Accelerator because he thought he would not have business skills to offer his team. However, he soon realized that many people in the program are not business majors. Yartz’s advisors also quickly helped him understand the business world and language, he said. 

“It’s been a joy to get involved in something outside of my comfort zone,” Yartz explained. “I feel like every time I sit down for a presentation or a lecture, I come away with immense knowledge.” 

Burns said he appreciates the CIE for providing them with resources and mentors that are willing to help with different aspects of their business including finances and marketing. 

“Any part of our business that we are having a little bit of trouble with, there is always someone to ask,” Burns said.  

By the end of the Summer Accelerator, Burns and Yartz hope to sell their product at local stores so that it can get into the hands of people who want to contribute to a more sustainable future. 

“The animal feed industry is one area that could use some change, and we believe that our solution is going to help improve environmental choices and make them accessible to all sorts of people,” Yartz said. 

ENTEIN, along with the rest of the 2023 Summer Accelerator cohort, will pitch their startup and showcase their progress at Demo Day, on Sept. 8 at 4 p.m. at SLO Brew Rock. Tickets are available here.

Comments are off for this post

Cal Poly startup streamlines the event-planning process for the vendor and the customer

At 15 years old, computer science senior Luis Guzman was offered a unique opportunity to work in a party rental company for his uncle. From there, he used the money he earned to create his own mechanical bull rental business. 

Although hard work, Guzman enjoyed running his own company. He was so passionate about it that he encouraged his friend and now co-founder, Maricela Carrillo, to start her own business as well.

Carrillo, a mechanical engineering senior, took Guzman’s advice and created a photo booth rental company. After three months, her business took off. 

“As I started to take on more clients, I saw first-hand how messy communication with them could get,” Carrillo said. “Being a small business vendor, there was no way for me to upscale.”

Coincidentally, Guzman approached Carrillo with the same issues. Their businesses were spreading solely through word of mouth, it was hard to establish a customer base and the resources needed to grow their business were expensive. This made expanding very difficult, they said. 

Despite desperate attempts to find a solution to their rental business problems, they came out empty-handed. So, Guzman and Carrillo created their own answer, PlanForMí

PlanForMí is a startup that leverages artificial intelligence (AI) to simplify the event-planning process by easily connecting local vendors and customers. 

Their startup is tackling two big issues in the event-planning world: small vendors’ inability to grow because of limited ways to promote their company and customers struggling to find reliable vendors while staying within their budget.

Guzman and Carrillo have spoken to various planners, directors, and coordinators of events to gain insights into their event-planning process. They all mentioned how difficult it is to find vendors because there is no singular platform that compiles various vendors together.

PlanForMí streamlines the search for vendors, allowing customers to easily read reviews and compare options that are in their price range. It also provides a platform for vendors to scale their business by putting them in touch with new clients. 

What makes Guzman and Carrillo uniquely able to run their startup is their own experience in the event planning industry, they explained. 

“We’re not coming from a business background, we’re coming from our own personal vendor experience,” Carrillo said. 

Guzman started developing the idea for their startup in his Interdisciplinary Entrepreneurial Senior Design Project course (ENGR 465) class. He then joined the Cal Poly Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship (CIE) Hatchery, an incubator program that gives students hands-on experience launching a company and mentorship to develop their entrepreneurial skills. 

Guzman said the Hatchery provided him with many resources as well as introduced him to the CIE Innovation Quest (iQ). iQ encourages entrepreneurs to pursue their innovative ideas and helps with the funding needed to launch their business.  

Guzman and Carrillo participated in iQ 2023. Although they did not win, Guzman described it as a “great experience.” 

“It was the first time we were getting feedback on our business model and on our target audience. It really helped us grow this idea,” Guzman said. 

Determined to apply their feedback and continue developing their idea, Guzman and Carrillo applied to the CIE Summer Accelerator, a 13-week program that gives entrepreneurs $10,000 in funding and other resources to help build their business. 

PlanForMí was one of the eight teams accepted to the program.

“The CIE has really helped solidify what direction our business model needs to take in order to thrive,” Guzman said. 

As an engineering major, Carrillo said that the CIE has helped her gain a better understanding of the business world. Just six weeks into the program, she said she has already grown “exponentially fast.” 

Through the Summer Accelerator, Guzman and Carrillo want to continue their customer development and eventually expand across California. 

The co-founders are excited to build a community between customers and vendors and make planning events just as enjoyable as the events themselves. 

“It’s more than just an event planning industry. It is a community where event planners and vendors can depend on each other and at the very end, we’re helping each other’s businesses grow,” Guzman said. 

PlanForMí, along with the rest of the 2023 Summer Accelerator cohort, will pitch their startup and showcase their progress at Demo Day, on Sept. 8 at 4 p.m. at SLO Brew Rock. Tickets are available here.

Comments are off for this post

Cal Poly startup aims to promote a safer drinking culture

With a unique motivation to enable a safer and healthier drinking culture, industrial engineering graduate Owen Works, biomedical engineering graduate who is now pursuing his Master’s of Science (MS) in Biomedical Engineering Camden Ford and psychology senior Aynsley Ramsaur are joining forces to address irresponsible binge drinking. 

Their startup, DrinkWise, is developing a non-invasive, one-time-use SmartPatch that uses chemical sensing based on sweat to measure and estimate Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) levels. Their SmartPatch continuously monitors BAC over time which allows users to simply look at their arm and track their level of intoxication. 

Works first had the idea for DrinkWise while taking Innovation and Entrepreneurship Through Disruptive Technologies (BUS 408), where he learned about Smart Tattoos. 

Smart Tattoos are sensing interfaces that users place on their skin to help monitor different health metrics. 

Works was preparing to attend an upcoming music festival at the time which is considered a high-risk setting for high levels of alcohol consumption, according to the National Library of Medicine

“I had this idea: What if my friends and I had something we could put on our arm that monitored our alcohol levels?” he said. “It would help keep us safer.” 

Works decided to pitch his idea at the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) Elevator Pitch Competition (EPC). EPC is a competition where students pitch startup ideas for a chance to win cash prizes. 

Works’ pitch for DrinkWise won the competition’s top prize of $1,000. That moment felt like validation for his idea and pushed him to pursue it more seriously, Works said. 

Not only did the EPC fuel Works’s desire to pursue DrinkWise, his understanding of alcohol abuse did too. While Works was in high school, his father suffered from alcoholism.  

“Having grown up around that, I was always a lot more conscientious of my own alcohol intake and habits,” Works said.

Fortunately, Works’s father is in recovery, but alcohol abuse is still a prevalent issue in the United States. Over 29 million people ages 12 and older had Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) in the past year, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Works believes a product like DrinkWise can enable people to track their alcohol use and help them make better decisions. 

Ford got involved with DrinkWise after it was promoted in his Biomedical Engineering Design (BMED 455) class, where he instantly became intrigued. 

“I’m a college student — we are all college students, and we definitely have seen what alcohol can do to people,” Ford said.

He thought the idea was relevant and wanted to help bring it to life. 

During Ford’s time in college and involvement in Greek Life, he said he has witnessed irresponsible use of alcohol.

This problem isn’t exclusive to Cal Poly. About 1 in 4 college students report academic consequences from drinking, including missing and falling behind in class, doing poorly on exams or papers and receiving lower grades overall, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

College students’ alcohol use can lead to detrimental effects. In fact, 1,519 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from alcohol-related unintentional injuries each year, also according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Ford said he wants to “inspire” college students to better manage their alcohol consumption and reduce heavy drinking. 

Ramsaur became interested in DrinkWise after watching Works’ pitch at EPC. Ramsaur and Works later met in their Customer Development (BUS 313) class. She realized the potential of DrinkWise and joined the team as a co-founder. 

Ramsaur recognized the safety concerns that DrinkWise addresses, especially as a young woman. 

“If you’re walking home or getting in an Uber, knowing that you are drunker than you feel is really important,” Ramsaur said. “It’s important to be conscious of your body and how your body reacts to certain things.”

Women are at a greater health and safety risk when consuming alcohol than men, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

The same study suggests that women are more likely than men to experience hangovers and alcohol-induced blackouts.

Ramsaur quickly saw how DrinkWise could help herself and other women become safer and healthier. 

In April of 2023, DrinkWise participated in Innovation Quest (iQ), a competition hosted by the CIE that encourages entrepreneurs to pursue their innovative ideas and a chance to win up to $30,000 in cash prizes. 

DrinkWise was one of 14 finalists to pitch their startup at iQ 2023. Although they did not win the competition, iQ allowed the co-founders to look at all the different aspects of their business and create an initial framework, Works said. 

Following iQ, the DrinkWise co-founders decided to apply to the CIE Summer Accelerator, a 13-week program that provides entrepreneurs with the resources to launch a real, scalable company. They were one of eight teams accepted to the program. 

“We’re all committed for a summer, get funding and we get all these crazy good mentors,” Works said. “There wasn’t anything I could think of that I would rather have done this summer.” 

Ramsaur and Ford expressed their gratitude towards the Summer Accelerator’s various resources and the opportunity to receive guidance from knowledgeable mentors.

“It has been the most amazing program I’ve ever been a part of,” Ramsaur said. 

By the end of the Summer Accelerator, the co-founders hope to finalize an accurate, usable and testable prototype. They are excited to save lives by promoting healthier drinking, they said. 

“We want to foster a culture where people have healthier habits and still have fun, but responsibly,” Works said.

DrinkWise, along with the rest of the 2023 Summer Accelerator cohort, will pitch their startup and showcase their progress at Demo Day, on Sept. 8 at 4 p.m. at SLO Brew Rock. Tickets are available here.

 

Comments are off for this post

Cal Poly seniors combat illness with a healthy beverage

Getting sick in college can seem inevitable. When students are living in close-quarters, sharing classroom spaces and constantly socializing with new people, germs are bound to spread. 

Eighty-one percent of Cal Poly students will experience sickness at least once in a three-month span, according to business administration senior Matthew Reis. In fact, catching a sickness is so common at Cal Poly that students coined a term for the epidemic: the Poly Plague. 

As a student and fraternity member at Cal Poly, Reis was in the midst of the college social scene. He experienced the anguish of the Poly Plague time and time again. 

“I was very sick all the time just from normal college activities,” he said. “I was getting tonsillitis and a lot of inflammation. My second year, I contracted mono.” 

Reis felt extremely frustrated with his persistent sickness and his inability to find a reliable cure. As a result, he took matters into his own hands and sought a solution. 

Through some research, Reis came across a recipe for a pineapple tea that worked as a natural remedy for a cough and cold. After making the drink for himself, he noticed his respiratory symptoms decreasing quickly. He compared his results to over-the-counter (OTC) medicine, for instance, NyQuil, and realized how much more rejuvenated he felt. 

Reis learned that OTC medicine simply suppresses one’s symptoms so people can sleep better, but does not truly contribute to a speedy recovery. Fortunately, because pineapples are packed with vitamins and minerals, they significantly support immunity. 

Soon enough, Reis’s friends noticed the pineapple tea fighting his stubborn sickness and winning. They urged him to make the beverage for themselves so that they could also avoid dreadful college sicknesses. 

“Eventually, I was thinking, it would be nice if I could make this something that I do, and other people benefited from,” Reis said. 

That is when he came up with the idea for his startup Té Piña, a company creating a pineapple-based beverage with vitamins, minerals and anti-inflammatory agents intended to help people recover from and prevent respiratory illnesses. 

Reis took his idea and pitched it at the 54-hour-long Cal Poly Entrepreneurs (CPE) event where developers, designers and innovators can meet for the first time and develop a business together. At the event, business administration senior Benjamin Arts watched Reis pitch and loved the idea. 

Arts felt that Té Piña was a “product with meaning that could actually change someone’s life and make them feel better.” 

After recognizing each other’s strong interest in Té Piña, they decided to become co-founders. 

Reis and Arts aim to create the perfect combination of ingredients that will make Té Piña a better option than alternatives like ginger shots, tea refreshers and caffeinated drinks. 

“Options such as Yerba Mate exist that provide customers with the facade of a healthy drink when in reality, it is just another energy drink. On the other side of the scale are health shots, where customers sacrifice taste for the benefits,” Reis explained. “Té Piña can fix customer’s pain by providing a beverage that is both healthy and delicious.”

Té Piña will be a beverage that is both mild in sugar content and adequate with the amount of caffeine, Reis said. 

So, how does Té Piña do it? Pineapple skins. Pineapple skins are what they use as their primary immune booster as they are packed with nutrients and vitamin C, Reis said. 

Feeling confident in their idea, the co-founders applied to the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CIE) Summer Accelerator, a 13-week extensive program that provides participants with mentorship, networking opportunities and $10,000 in seed funding to help grow their business. Té Piña was one of eight teams accepted into the program.

Reis explained that the CIE has been beneficial in helping him get in touch with the right people to get his idea off the ground.

 “The CIE will support you and has the resources to bring you up and help you pivot and adapt. That’s how they develop you as an entrepreneur,” Reis said. 

During the Summer Accelerator, the co-founders aim to finalize their recipe, establish a nutrition label and certify their product so they can sell Té Piña locally. 

“I hope that we can make Té Piña accessible, available and affordable for all students to solve their Poly Plague problems,” Reis said. 

Té Piña, along with the rest of the 2023 Summer Accelerator cohort, will pitch their startup and showcase their progress at Demo Day, on Sept. 8 at 4 p.m. at SLO Brew Rock. Tickets are available here.

Comments are off for this post

Cal Poly engineers are combating loneliness for recently relocated college graduates

Moving to a new city sounds invigorating, and it is, but this change can be just as difficult as it is rewarding. 

61% of young adults in their 20s are experiencing high levels of loneliness, according to software engineering graduate Parker Callison and mechanical engineering graduate Samantha Moberly. Of this 61%, many are graduates who moved to a new city after college, they said. 

As recent graduates themselves, Callison and Moberly understand just how daunting it can be to move away from one’s community and lose their support system. 

Callison experienced this first-hand after he took a couple of years off from college. When he returned to school, most of his friends had already graduated. Callison said he struggled to create new relationships. 

Additionally, Moberly regularly heard her friends in college express anxiety about how to meet new people post-grad and avoid feelings of loneliness. This anxiety stemmed from the fact that they would no longer be in classrooms or extracurriculars that surrounded them with people their age.

“Recent grads especially are experiencing this problem of loneliness and actively looking for a solution after they leave behind their college community,” Moberly said.

To create a solution to a problem that affected not only their friends but also themselves, Callison and Moberly teamed up to create their startup Social Spark, a social networking platform aimed to combat loneliness by helping recent college graduates create genuine friendships in their new cities. 

Through Social Spark, users can sign up for weekend-long events in their new city. Trained leaders will guide these groups through a range of fun and dynamic activities that will help create new friendships. These leaders go through scenario-based training where they are provided tips on how to facilitate conversations and create deeper conversations between strangers. 

They began developing their startup during their Interdisciplinary Entrepreneurial Senior Design Project course (ENGR 465), a team-based interdisciplinary senior design project that allows engineering and business students to collaborate and create new solutions to real-world problems.

Callison and Moberly explained that despite virtual connections through social media, people still feel lonely. Additionally, with the rise of remote jobs, many relocated graduates are creating very surface-level connections, they said. The co-founders wanted to create a healthier way for people to socialize, and that was through in-person events where deeper connections can be made. 

“We really did not want to just be an app that connects people virtually,” Moberly said. “We want to bring people in person because we think real friendships are made in real life, face-to-face.” 

After their senior project course, Callison and Moberly saw potential in their idea and applied to the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CIE) Summer Accelerator, a 13-week program that provides Cal Poly students and recent graduates with the resources needed to turn their startup ideas into real, scalable businesses. 

Social Spark was one of the eight teams accepted to the program.

“We feel so fortunate to have all the mentors around us to support us,” Moberly said. “It has been amazing so far, having such a great support system.” 

During the Summer Accelerator, Callison and Moberly aim to run several pilot events and gain valuable feedback. They hope to learn how to better facilitate friendships while creating events that are exciting and enjoyable, Callison explained. 

The co-founders said they look forward to Social Spark’s potential in tackling feelings of isolation.  

“If we can just help one person to feel less lonely, then that will be amazing on our end to get to see that impact,” Moberly said. 

Social Spark, along with the rest of the 2023 Summer Accelerator cohort, will pitch their startup and showcase their progress at Demo Day, on Sept. 8 at 4 p.m. at SLO Brew Rock. Tickets are available here.

Comments are off for this post

Incubator Spotlight: Quantum Energy

Quantum Energy is a software service in the energy industry that is helping finance and organize the future of energy while optimizing economic, environmental and health outcomes.

Their platform is creating a more sustainable future and maximizing business’s financial outcomes by bringing new data-driven insights to energy decision-makers. 

The idea for the startup originated after co-founder Andrew DeMille, multi-exit Software as a Service (SaaS) startup founder, reconnected with his friend and co-founder Dr. Daniel Howard, who has a Ph.D. in Energy and Environmental Engineering. 

With DeMille’s and Dr. Howard’s combined passion for the environment, they recognized the importance of considering potential impacts on our health and planet when making energy decisions.

DeMille was involved with the Cal Poly’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) Small Business Development Center (SBDC) through his previous software company, CoachNow. The SBDC introduced DeMille to the CIE Incubator program. 

The CIE’s two-year Incubator program helps develop early-stage startups into financially secure and scalable enterprises. Entrepreneurs in the Incubator program are provided with mentorship, funding opportunities and other resources to develop their business. 

Since joining the Incubator, DeMille has benefitted from advice given by mentors and peers to combat startup challenges. He described the Incubator process as “invaluable.” 

“Being able to come in and have access to a network of peers who are also building startups, also going through the trials and tribulations and sharing successes together. That has been super, super helpful,” DeMille said. 

In addition to helping Quantum Energy co-founders expand their network, the Incubator also connected them with fundraising opportunities.

Following the Incubator, Quantum Energy competed in, applied and was accepted as a top six finalist in the SBDC’s annual AngelCon pitch competition which hosts six tech-based startups in an annual pitch competition to win $100,000+ in equity-backed funding. 

Quantum Energy competed as a finalist in AngelCon 2023 and won the Audience Choice Award, receiving $1,300 in prize money from the crowdfunding campaign. 

“The Audience Choice Award means so much to us,” DeMille said. “It just felt like an acknowledgment of a solution whose time has come.” 

DeMille said the Incubator program helped him prepare to pitch at AngleCon. Receiving feedback from different angles and experts demystified the presentation of their startup, he explained. 

Quantum Energy is now working on an initiative to add a new purchaser-caused avoided emission impact label to the renewable energy credit market. This label will be applied to energy so that, for the first time, businesses can make healthy decisions for profit, people and the planet. 

DeMille thanks the Incubator program for helping Quantum Energy build momentum and encourages entrepreneurs to apply. 

“There is nowhere else that I can imagine where you can get this level of access to resources and support as a startup founder to move forward and to make your vision a reality,” DeMille said.

Comments are off for this post

Meet the newest CIE and SBDC staff members!

This summer, the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) is welcoming new staff members. Meet the newest addition to the CIE team below!

Naomi Baron, Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Marketing & Events Intern:

Naomi is a Cal Poly business administration student with a concentration in information systems. Her favorite thing about working with the CIE is the opportunities she has to learn more about business and entrepreneurship. In addition to business, Naomi also has a strong interest in journalism and enjoys reporting whenever she can. In her free time, she enjoys watching “hilariously dumb comedy movies” with her friends and family while enjoying “obscene amounts of candy and junk food.”

Noa Benshabat, CIE Marketing & Events Intern:

Photo by Ruby Wallau.

Noa is a Cal Poly business administration junior with a concentration in marketing and a minor in graphic communication. Her favorite thing about the CIE is the “awesome people” she’s met and the opportunities she’s had to build her network. One of those connections is Pipsticks, a sticker company and Noa’s favorite SLOcal small business. Noa said her notebooks, laptop and water bottle are now covered in Pipsticks stickers. Some things you might not expect about Noa: She loves heavy lifting at the gym and listening to “hardcore Dubstep and bass.”

Schuyler Eley, CIE Public Relations & Digital Marketing Intern:

Photo by Ruby Wallau.

Schuyler is a Cal Poly communications studies senior with a minor in science and risk communication. Her favorite thing about working at the CIE is being around “hard working people striving to make an impact in the world.” In her free time, she spends a lot of time in nature, especially at the beach. She also enjoys reading, and her favorite book is “Normal People” by Sally Rooney.

Lynsey Fowler, SBDC Administrative & Graphic Design Coordinator:

Photo by Ruby Wallau.

Lynsey is the SBDC’s newest full-time staff member. She enjoys working around young entrepreneurs who are passionate about their work. “The way they speak about their businesses is very compelling,” she said. “I’m not rich, but many of them have me wanting to invest!” In her free time, Lynsey enjoys taking walks, swimming, hiking and reading at the beach. On gloomy days, she’ll spend time inside watching movies and TV shows, “mostly about cults.”

Sarah Hirst, CIE Graphic Design Intern:

Photo by Ruby Wallau.

Sarah is a Cal Poly graphic design junior. Her favorite thing about working at the CIE is the “supportive, uplifting community.” She described the people at the CIE as very welcoming and excited about their work. In her free time, Sarah enjoys “anything art-related.” She loves painting, sculpting and animating, as well as dancing and playing her ukulele. She also enjoys watching old, black-and-white musicals, although her favorite movies are currently “La La Land” and “Tangled.”

Sydney Harrison, CIE Marketing & Communications Coordinator:

Sydney is a recent graduate from UC San Diego. She majored in communications and minored environmental studies. Outside of work, Sydney likes to stay active. “In my free time you can find me surfing, hiking, climbing, backpacking, horseback riding or in a hot yoga class,” she said. She also enjoys reading about travel and adventure. Her favorite book is “Swell” by Liz Clark, which documents the author’s solo sailing adventures across the globe.

Mackenzie Ryseff, CIE & SBDC Marketing & Events Intern:

Mackenzie is a Cal Poly journalism senior with a concentration in public relations and a minor in entrepreneurship. Mackenzie’s favorite thing about working at the CIE is the “kind and encouraging” people who she works alongside. Mackenzie is a “BIG coffee lover,” and her favorite SLOcal small business is Skippers Brew Coffee. In her free time, Mackenzie enjoys going to the beach and making jewelry.

Libbie Stone, SBDC Videographer Intern:

Photo by Ruby Wallau.

Libbie is a Cal Poly anthropology and geography senior with minors in dance and media, arts, society and technology (MAST). Her favorite thing about working for the SBDC is working in the CIE’s downtown HotHouse, where “there’s always something new and exciting going on.” In her free time, she enjoys hiking, dancing and practicing yoga. She also enjoys reading, and her favorite book is “Atonement” by Ian McEwan.

Abby Yue, CIE Videographer Intern:

Photo by Ruby Wallau.

Abby is a graphic communication junior with a minor in MAST. Her favorite thing about working with the CIE is being surrounded by a diverse cast of passionate entrepreneurs. Abby’s favorite SLOcal business is Bread Bike. “Their ingredients are locally sourced, and they really care about building community with local farmers and their customers,” she said. Her favorite book is “Beartown” by Fredrik Backman.

Comments are off for this post

Engineering and business majors create a solution to costly fires in recycling facilities

Four Cal Poly seniors with a devotion towards the environment and the community came together to create a proactive solution for battery-caused fires in recycling facilities.  

They met as students through the Interdisciplinary Entrepreneurial Senior Design Project course (ENGR 465) which allows entrepreneurship students and engineering students to collaborate and create new solutions to real-world problems. 

Early in their senior project course, mechanical engineering majors Stefany James and Sydney Fairchild and business administration majors Penny Lane Case and Thaddeus Ziarkowski recognized each other’s passion for sustainability. 

“We all just met under this common goal of making the world better, cleaner and sustaining our resources,” Case said. 

Their startup, Nexstera Tech, is pushing the boundaries of material differentiation and detection through radar and transforming the way waste management operates. Their first product, Pyrottack, allows customers to detect lithium-ion batteries in the waste stream before they enter trucks and floors of recovery facilities.

According to Case, lithium-ion batteries can cause massive fires in recycling facilities that produce harm to the environment, people and resources. These damages cost over $1.2 billion in damages annually to the US and Canada alone, she said. 

Those working in recycling facilities are uncertain whether or not they will be safe, Fairchild explained: “At a moment’s notice, they have to stop sorting, stop doing whatever they’re doing, and become a firefighter for about five minutes, and that’s terrifying,” she said. 

Nexstera Tech is solving a real-world problem for hundreds, if not thousands, of people, Ziarkowski said. He described the potential impact of their technology as “exceptional.” 

After their senior project course, Nexstera Tech participated in Innovation Quest (iQ), a competition hosted by the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) designed to help entrepreneurs grow their startup from an idea into a company. 

“Innovation Quest was absolutely awesome in terms of getting experience pitching,” Fairchild said. “We started realizing we’re going to get a lot of feedback very quickly within this program.” 

Nexstera Tech was one of 14 finalists to pitch their startup at iQ 2023. Although they did not win the competition, iQ allowed them to receive diverse opinions on their business, Fairchild said. 

Following iQ, the Nexstera co-founders decided to pursue their startup and apply to the CIE Summer Accelerator. They were one of eight teams accepted to the program. 

The Summer Accelerator is a 13-week program designed to give Cal Poly students and recent alumni the resources needed to launch a real, scalable company. 

“It’s awesome to get to work around people who are as enthusiastic about their work as we are,” James said. “It’s just very encouraging.” 

Towards the end of the Summer Accelerator, the co-founders are hoping to have a fully functioning prototype that will be used by a recycling facility. This way, they can continue their efforts to become more responsible with the disposal of waste and keeping recycling facility members safe. 

“Protecting these people who I care about genuinely, even if I don’t know them, and the environment at the same time has just propelled me to work with these amazing people as we continue on this journey,” Case said. 

Nexstera Tech, along with the rest of the 2023 Summer Accelerator cohort, will pitch their startup and showcase their progress at Demo Day, on Sept. 8 at 4 p.m. at SLO Brew Rock. Tickets are available here

Comments are off for this post

Hatchery Spotlight: Central Coast Vintage

Starting as a small clothing pop-up in one of their grandma’s front yard, four Cal Poly students transformed their hobby into a full enterprise, with their very own store in Downtown San Luis Obispo. 

Central Coast Vintage is a vintage clothing company that curates vintage clothing to provide college students with affordable fashion.

The idea for the startup originated after co-owners Nate Smidt, Beau Gamboni, Dominic Gamboni and Austen Hanner started buying their clothes at thrift shops to cut down on expenses. Soon after, they decided to sell their old clothes at a local pop-up event. After collectively making $1,000, they decided to host their own monthly pop-ups.  

Smidt and his partners started their pop-up events in Bakersfield. They eventually moved their pop-ups to San Luis Obispo, selling at the Downtown SLO Farmers’ Market and on Cal Poly’s Dexter Lawn.

Smidt later came in contact with a local landlord and made a deal to open a store in Downtown San Luis Obispo. Central Coast Vintage had its grand opening on February 18, 2023. 

“You couldn’t even walk through the store because everyone we knew from college was there,” Smidt said. “We made 15 times we had ever made before.” 

Following the grand opening, the co-founders joined the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) Hatchery.

The CIE Hatchery is an on-campus startup incubator open to all Cal Poly students interested in learning how to take a business from an idea to launch. Student entrepreneurs are provided with resources like mentorship, coaching and weekly workshops.  

Students learn the skills critical to entrepreneurship. Smidt said one of the biggest skills he learned in the program is organization.  

He also explained that working around other driven student entrepreneurs motivates him. 

“You hear so many people that are like, ‘I want to work for myself,’ and it’s really inspiring to hear all of them talking,” he said.  

Smidt and his co-owners now plan on investing the capital raised through Central Coast Vintage into a different business venture. They are working to develop an app that will help students with college housing. Smidt pitched his idea in the Hatchery and was instantly put in contact with an app developer. 

The co-founders hope to start launching more community events where college students can come and re-sell their clothing. They also plan on coming out with their own Central Coast Vintage merchandise.

Central Coast Vintage is excited to grow even more as a business and leverage Hatchery resources.

“If you are struggling to find money but you have the idea, go to the Hatchery,” Smidt said. “It is such a good way to start your business.” 

Comments are off for this post
1 2 3 4 17